Who puts the corn in Cornfest?

Birds Eye keeps ears in hands

By Donna Lenz-Wright/The Week

(Published September 6, 2006, 10:08 a.m.)

Locals know that Darien's Cornfest is a three-day family event that has fun for all ages with carnival rides, live music, softball tournaments, pageants, parades and all that makes up a fun festival.

But what puts this festival head and shoulders above the others is the ears-all of the free sweet corn you can eat.

Each year for over 35 years, the Cornfest committee has always been able to count on the Darien vegetable factory, currently Bird's Eye Foods, to put the corn in Cornfest, said Karen Weiler, Cornfest president.

"They ship it in fresh on Saturday and Sunday mornings," she said.

To be precise, 32,000 pounds of sweet corn, according to Bea Slizewski, vice president of corporate communications for Birds Eye Foods.

"That's what Cornfest is all about-the free corn," Weiler says. "It draws a lot of people."

Wisconsin hosts several corn festivals each year, but due to the high gasoline prices, some festivals were forced to charge people for their corn this year.

But not Cornfest.

"(Birds Eye) deserves the credit," Weiler said. "It's been a lot of different companies over the years, but Birds Eye still keeps up the tradition. We couldn't do it without them."

"As a community member, this is something we enjoy doing," Slizewski said. "We provide the corn because it is a great fund-raiser for the local fire department and rescue squad services."

And be assured, this is top-of-the-line quality sweet corn grown right here in Wisconsin, she added.

"The field crew monitors the maturity of all of our corn daily so we can be assured of harvesting it at the peak of quality."

Though there is much to enjoy during Cornfest, be sure not to miss the infamous Corn-Eating Contest, even as a spectator, Weiler says.

"It's just a scream. The guys that run it go out and get costumes, wigs and everything and they're just hilarious."

Categories are broken into ages 12 and under, and ages 13 through 99. Prizes are awarded to the fastest three corn-eaters.

"Sometimes the kids do just as well as the adults," Weiler says. "You never know."

Immediately following the Corn-Eating Contest on Saturday is a Milk-Chugging Contest to wash down off of that corn.

Whatever your pleasure, it's all here at Cornfest. So be sure to visit Darien this weekend, eat some free sweet corn and support the local emergency services.

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